Eight inches of snow lies outside my house. A converted barn perched on the side of Little Mell Fell, just a couple of miles from Ullswater. The lake and valley of Ullswater is, I think, the most spectacular in the Lake District National Park – 477 feet above sea level ; 7.5 miles (12 km) long; 0.5 miles wide (0.8 km) with a maximum depth of 205 feet (62 m).
The circular footpath known locally as the Ullswater Way is close to my home too.
No chance that I will attempt even a small section of the 20 mile (32 km) walking route today.
Last week was different. Blue sky, sunshine; cold, fabulous. Not that I walked the complete circuit – this is what is so remarkable. Everyone can walk little sections of the Ullswater Way and still get spectacular views.
I parked my car at Aira Force – a National Trust Car Park free to Members – walked to the village of Glenridding – drank coffee in the Orangery, part of the 4 * hotel named the Inn on the Lake. Good coffee, newspapers, a 360 degree view of the lake and mountain fells. Later I walked back to Aira Force, the most accessible waterfall in the County of Cumbria. Just 3 miles each way along a clear path.
I could have taken a boat. Ullswater Steamers www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk operate throughout the winter and have jetties at both Glenridding and Aira Force. Or a bus – there are various bus stops along the lake shore – Bus numbers 104, 108 and 508 www.stagecoachbus.com
There are lots of options for different walks, plenty of wildlife to look out for and even surprises such as art installations along the Way. And there are interesting people from history to discover too.
The poet William Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy was inspired to write his most famous poem Daffodils after walking the same route as I covered last week.
Lesser known but just as important is Sir Cecil Spring Rice. A plaque is in situ at the lower bridge of Aira Force waterfall in remembrance of his work as a diplomat during the Great War.
As a Blue Badge Tourist Guide I frequently take groups to Ullswater and to Aira Force. Most visitors to the Lakes know of William Wordsworth, his poetry, his sister Dorothy. Few are familiar with Sir Cecil Spring Rice.
He was brought up at his mother’s family home, Old Church House, on the shores of Ullswater. Although a professional diplomat and a fluent speaker of French, German and Persian, it is his poetry that will be most remembered.
The most celebrated poem being “I vow to thee my country” whose overriding theme is sacrifice in battle. Set to music, the poem has become one of Great Britain’s most loved hymns – the tune, “Thaxted”, is by Gustav Holst, taken from the “Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity” movement of his suite “The Planets”.
An additional literary connection is to Tarzan, the fictional son of Lord and Lady Greystoke. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story and sequels have sold millions of copies in many languages. Local tradition has it that when visiting China together, Sir Cecil and Edgar Rice Burroughs discussed Greystoke Castle and the accompanying lands in Cumbria possessed by the notorious Howard family. Many of the characteristics we associate with Tarzan can be found in the successive Lords of Greystoke who inhabited the castle, situated just 7 miles to the north of Aira Force waterfalls.
One thing I’ve learned in my work is that even the most familiar places have their secrets and part of my role is to reveal a few of them to visitors. The January snow, although beautiful, will not be missed when it disappears. I will be back walking alongside my favourite lake – Ullswater very soon.The daffodils will emerge in just a few short weeks – dancing and fluttering in the breeze. Glencoyne Bay will glow and Ullswater will sparkle. The lakeshore will be covered in gold. Daffodils, blossom and sunshine – spring is coming soon.